If the media’s doing so badly why is Kerry Stokes digging in?

If the media’s doing so badly why is Kerry Stokes digging in?

If you think of the bosses you most expect to be worth a fortune, they’re likely to be banking chiefs or mining titans, right?

But you’d be wrong. Australia’s richest bosses, as detailed in the last issue of BRW, work in the media, by a hefty margin.

The magazine’s annual ranking of the CEOs with the biggest investment in their companies has charted the media-backed wealth of five media chiefs. Their holdings combined are worth $9.45 billion, most of which belongs to Rupert Murdoch. The industry whose chiefs were next-invested in their companies, consumer services, can boast holdings of only $6.1 billion in total, split between 12 chiefs.

Despite the agonies of the sector – which in 2012 was best characterised by falling profits, redundancies, and restructures – News Limited founder Rupert Murdoch and Seven Group’s Kerry Stokes are more invested in their respective companies than ever.

The next generation of media chiefs? Not so much, or at least, not in traditional media companies.

Here are the five media chiefs who still owe a lot of their personal wealth to their media holdings.

Rupert Murdoch

Twelve months ago, Rupert Murdoch’s shares in News Limited were worth $6 billion. Now, those shares are worth $9.13 billion. That’s the bulk of Murdoch’s total wealth, estimated by Forbes at $11.2 billion.

Murdoch has benefited along with the company’s share price. Between April 1, 2012 and April 1, 2013, News Limited shares went from $19.10 to $29.51, a staggering 54% rise.

James Murdoch

Despite this, it appears Rupert’s son James doesn’t hold the same confidence in the business his father does. Murdoch the younger, the company’s deputy chief operating officer, owns $15.5 million of the company, a 10.4% decrease on the year before. That’s despite that 54% rise in the share price. He’s been selling his stock.

Greg Roebuck

To be fair, the next two people on the list aren’t your traditional ‘media’ players. But they’re classified as such because when you break it down they’re in the same business as older media publishers – selling eyeballs to advertisers by providing compelling content. A different business model, a different ethos perhaps, but they aren’t so different in the eyes of investors.

Greg Roebuck founded Carsales.com.au in 2002, and today, he owns $55.8 million worth of stock. That’s up 70% on last year. In that time, its share price has gone up 75%, from $5.38 to $9.40.

Andrew Bassat

The next media titan on the list is SEEK’s co-founder and CEO Andrew Bassat, who owns $134.3 million worth of stock. That’s 76.7% up on last year. SEEK’s healthy performance on the ASX has helped – it’s up 44% over the past year.

Kerry Stokes

Perhaps the most interesting person on the list is Seven Group chairman Kerry Stokes. His numbers are far smaller than Murdoch’s, but he’s also more invested than ever. His ownership stake in Seven Group is now worth $2.3 billion, up from $1.77 billion just a year ago.

His wealth, however, hasn’t benefited from a rising share price.

Over the same period Seven Group Holdings’ stock is up, but only from $9.82 to $9.90. That’s just under a 1% increase.

Unlike Murdoch, who’s benefited primarily from the stock price, the reason for Stokes’ greater investment is that he’s been buying up stock. In the past year he’s bought up 30% of the company, according to BRW.

Seven Group Holdings isn’t the only company Stokes is investing in – though he sold his 25% stake in Consolidated Media to News Limited last year for $500 million, he put $40 billion into Ten Network shares last month, giving him 5% of the rival network.

Does he see something we don’t, or will Stokes’ media plays erode his fortune, last estimated at $2.79 billion? We’ll keep you posted.

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